Ge­orge Samp­son has come a long way from the stage, writes Tara Brady, and the all-singing, all-danc­ing, all-act­ing man is still only 18

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

IF GE­ORGE SAMP­SON didn’t ex­ist, X-fac­tor or The Voice or Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent – take your pick – would have been forced to hire some­one in to play a kid just like him. Back in 2007 an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally en­thu­si­as­tic Si­mon Cow­ell failed to per­suade fel­low Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent ju­rors Amanda Holden and Piers Mor­gan to let Samp­son, a bril­liant 12-year-old street dance pro­tégé, to progress to the se­ries semi-fi­nals.

Un­bowed, the plucky lit­tle fel­low went back on the streets of War­ring­ton to prove his worth as a hoofer and earn ex­tra cash for his sin­gle mum, a class­room as­sis­tant with five kids and a mort­gage. He re­turned, tri­umphant, to Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent se­ries two a year later, win­ning £100,000 and a slot at the Royal Va­ri­ety Per­for­mance.

“I never knew what I was step­ping into,” he says. “I didn’t know what was be­gin­ning. It’s only now, four-and-a-half years later, that I’m half ex­pect­ing what to ex­pect. It still feels like it was only last year. It’s mad to think it was that long ago. It seems like a blur when I think back on it.”

Four­teen-and-a-half mil­lion view­ers tuned in to ITV to see his vic­to­ri­ous per­for­mance of Sin­gin’ in the Rain. And just to com­plete the Cin­derella story, we learned that Ge­orge had been di­ag­nosed with Scheuer­mann’s dis­ease, a con­di­tion that af­fects de­vel­op­ing bones in chil­dren and teenagers and which is as­so­ciat- ed with cur­va­ture of the spine. Doesn’t that make danc­ing just that bit trick­ier to mas­ter?

“It doesn’t help,” he shrugs. “I’m not as flex­i­ble as I should be. But it doesn’t re­ally get in the way. When I’m danc­ing and I’m mov­ing I don’t even know it’s there. It’s when I’m still or sit­ting down that it starts to cramp.”

Is it a kind of ther­apy, gain­ing con­trol over un­ruly, un­co­op­er­a­tive bits of his anatomy?

“Well, it is,” he says. “I’m so skinny and light I kind of know what I’m do­ing with my­self at all times. I know what­ever hap­pens I can carry my­self and stay on my feet. My back gives me prob­lems here and there but I’m in con­trol at all times. It’s noth­ing too ma­jor. Noth­ing I can’t man­age. And I’m hop­ing to grow out it. Give me an­other year and I’ll be fine.”

There are no other dancers in his fam­ily and he has only a vague sense mem­ory of how he came to tap his way to­ward TV glory. He started when he was six, he says. “I re­mem­ber watch­ing a show and I saw this guy do a back flip. And it changed me. I just thought, that’s what I want to do. That’s what I’m go­ing to do. And that was that.”

Post- BGT, Cow­ell’s la­bel Syco nabbed Samp­son to make a dance video. But it was not the im­pre­sario’s first medium. Samp­son was about to dis­cover tal­ent tele­vi­sion’s dirt­i­est open se­cret: it pays to come sec­ond. (Just ask Su­san Boyle or Flaw­less.)

The young break­dancer spent a month in London’s West End in the hip-hop mu­si­cal Into the Hoods. But in those pre-di­ver­sity days – a whole year be­fore we be­came ac­cus­tomed to tour­ing block­buster dance shows – Cow­ell and Samp­son quickly ran out of things to do.

“I have seen it change,” says Samp­son. “It’s a bit dif­fi­cult for me be­cause when I came along there weren’t that many things for a dancer to do. I went to the West End. And that was the big­gest high­light that any dancer could look for­ward to. But now there are so many TV shows and con­tracts out there for dancers. It’s bril­liant to see how it’s pro­gressed.”

Cow­ell hoped to re­po­si­tion the young­ster as a record­ing artist. In this spirit, Samp­son recorded a dou­ble-sided sin­gle, Get Up on the Dance Floor/headz Up, for the X Fac­tor

Ge­orge Samp­son (above) and (far page, third from right) in Streetdance 2

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